by Nat Frothingham
Mayor John Hollar has announced his intention not to seek re-election as mayor at next year’s city meeting. That meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 6, 2018.
A written statement dated October 31 begins with these words, “It is with mixed emotions that I am announcing my intention not to seek re-election as mayor.”
Explaining his decision, Hollar said, “All public offices have a shelf life. I’ve had the opportunity to make what I hope are positive contributions to the city, and it’s time to let someone else serve. I’m ready to focus on other things.”
For Hollar, that focus on other things includes his full-time work as a lawyer with the statewide law firm, Downs Rachlin Martin.
Hollar’s formal statement listed the city’s major achievements carried out under his watch.
Wrote Hollar, “We have made significant progress in the last six years in making Montpelier more affordable, vibrant, sustainable, and economically healthy. We have invested in street upgrades, economic development, alternative transportation, housing and our downtown.”
As part of his first run for mayor in 2012, among other things, Hollar set two key objectives.
First, he wanted to complete the city’s bike path. Second, he wanted to see through to construction the 1 Taylor Street project consisting of a transportation and commercial center along with housing and a public park.
“It’s been difficult to make progress on the projects I ran on in 2012,” Hollar conceded. But despite delays he noted substantial gains with both projects. “Both (projects) are ‘permitted,’” he said, meaning that both projects have all their required building and construction permits. And both projects have funding in place and “are scheduled for construction next spring.”
Hollar noted his earlier commitments to improve the city’s deteriorating infrastructure and lower the growth of the city’s property tax rate – goals he said had been accomplished.
Hollar also emphasized other achievements, including a significant reduction in the city’s greenhouse gas emissions as a result of the Net Zero Montpelier goal; investments in the downtown as a result of a Downtown Improvement District fund; new bicycle infrastructure that is financed through a new alternative transportation fund; a focus on housing development with dozens of new units scheduled for construction; and the creation of the Montpelier Development Corporation to help spur new economic activity.
Hollar’s six-year tenure as mayor was not without its share of inter-personal controversies.
One controversy involved the dismissal and subsequent court challenge to the dismissal of former City Planning & Development Director Gwendolyn Hallsmith. A second controversy involved a tangle between Mayor Hollar and some members of the City Council over whether City Manager Bill Fraser’s contract should be renewed.
When asked what he had learned from his time as mayor and what advice he might offer to anyone succeeding him in office, he said, “I would caution future mayors on Montpelier’s system of municipal government. We have a ‘weak mayor’ form of government, which can make it difficult for a mayor with a strong vision for the city to help bring about change.” He went on to say that the mayor has very few specific powers beyond the power of persuasion in getting things done. “It’s a challenging arrangement,” he concluded.
Hollar was silent about whether he might someday seek further political office. But he did say this, “I am passionate about good public policy.”
He noted his nine years on the Montpelier School Board and his six years as mayor, and said, “I am sure I will continue to be involved in public policy at the local and state level.”